Mountaineering and Canoeing with the lads you say? Oh go on then..
Here follows the story of when Oliver Cox, Richard Hughes, Simon Adshead, Steven Brown, Paul Randall and myself climbed Nevis and camped on an Island on a remote Scottish Loch…
The plan for this weekend was simple enough me, Hughesy, Tetley and Coxy would be joined by newbies Paul and Brownie and would attempt to climb and wild camp on Ben Nevis the highest peak in Scotland after the decent the following morning we were to be dropped off on the edge of Loch Morar with Canoes and paddle out to the far end of the Loch.
After a loooooooong drive up north we arrived at the car park at the foot of Nevis where we had started the 3-Peaks challenge a few years earlier. The first thing I spotted was a giant Stag the likes of which you just don’t see in Newark-on-Trent and we were all in awe at its magnificence. Sadly I only had my mobile to hand and the resulting photo was terrible so you will have to take our word for it.
When we started our 3-Peaks challenge we had a van full of stuff and need carry nothing with us where as on this occasion we were laiden with tents, sleeping bags, food etc etc. You wouldn’t think it would make that much of a difference but it really did or maybe I was just older and less fit.
The weather was very, very scottish and so as the light faded we decided to make camp near the edge of Loch Meall an t-Suidhe. It was windy, very windy and some of us less seasoned campers didnt sleep a wink. I on the other hand thanks to a bottle of red wine I had transferred into a plastic bottle slept like a log!
Morning came, we set of back to the car damp and disheartened that we hadn’t made the peak as planned but excited none the less for the next installment of our Scottish adventure.
In the days leading up to our trip a family of 6 (not wearing life jackets) had capsized and died on one of the sea lochs in the region, having had several lectures from love ones before leaving for Scotland we were also treated to one at the Canoe hire place… safety first.
We arrived at the Loch and for a brief moment the clouds parted, the rain stopped and this bright yellow thing appeared in the sky. It was warm and you couldnt look at it as it hurt your eyes… I asked a local what it was but they had never seen it before. One of the group suggested it could have been the sun… in Scotland!
In hindsight we should have paired experience and novice paddlers together as the Loch was awash with waves and the wind was howling but we set off for the Island just a mile or so off the edge of the Loch. Our canoeing pairs were Me and Coxy, Hughesy and Tetley and our canoe first timers Paul and Brownie.
We gave them some tips as we set off like keep the nose of the canoe into the waves and do not get sideways on to them however inexperience coupled with Brownies unique paddling style which I simply cannot convey into words could have easily led to tragedy. Zig zagging across the Loch they eventually collided with Land but not in the right place and Paul’s hat was lifted off his head by a branch never to be returned.
For a loch it was seriously choppy and self preservation kicked in as we headed around the island where we were sheltered from the wind and found our way into the perfect cover with a beach, pre-preprepared fire pit and plenty of room for a couple of tents. An absolutley stunning place to spend a night, the day or longer.
Sadly for us from the moment we landed to the moment we went to sleep it rained and rained and rained! Myself and Tetley had gone off to try our hand at trout fishing having been assured the Loch was full of them whilst the others put up the tents… the grand plan was to get a fire going, eat the fish and sit around the fire living life to the max, the reality somewhat different…
No fish, not even a bite we returned to the camp cold wet and disappointed. Tents were up this was good and the lads were sheltering inside it was then I spotted my bag was still outside, soaked through and therefore all my dry clothes were in a similar state.
I was tired and grumpy from the previous days adventure and may have been a little angrier than is my normal chilled out disposition. Richard inparticular, knowing me well, chose to hide at the back of group until the red mist had descended.
To add to this we couldnt get a fire going between us, there was not a dry stick on the whole island so cold, wet, pretty hungry we headed to the tents. We didnt sleep but we talked lots and mostly utter rubbish that I wouldnt want to repeat most of it but most importantly we also had a good laugh and a giggle about the days events.
We awoke to a beautiful morning the Loch looked amazing I couldnt wait to get back in the canoe and explore but sadly we were under a time constraint and had to be back at the shore to be picked up by mid-day. It was like a different Loch altogether this morning, sun shining and calm water like a mill pond. My only wish would be to have had another 24 hours with this weather but you cannot guarentee that kind of weather in Scotland.
And so we started the long drive home. I have two regrets 1) not spending enough time at Loch Morar and 2) not choosing a better weekend weather wise.
I will return to Loch Morar one day, I have my eye on a bothy at the top end at which I would dearly love to spend a couple of days.